Why geek culture has helped our children follow their curiosity

Free Comic Book Day was the highlight of our Dublin holiday

We went from one comic book store to another, supporting them by not only picking up a free comic book but by buying comics which the girls were drawn to.

We went from one comic book store to another, supporting them by not only picking up a free comic book but by buying comics which the girls were drawn to.

 
This summer, The Irish Times will offer tips, advice and information for parents on how to help their children thrive during the holiday months. Read all about it at  irishtimes.com/summeroffamily

When my kids return to school this week, I have a feeling they will fail to mention to their teacher, who potentially quizzes them on what they did over the summer, that we holidayed in our home city with a five-night stay in Dublin’s city centre.

Not that that matters because holidays were not at the top of our list when summer rolled around this year. But no matter how much we thrilled them with exploring the city we loved as kids, I know their excitement to share will sit with one specific day, or rather one morning of adventure during that five-night stay. And nothing else in between the school doors closing and reopening will be worth mentioning.

It won’t be how we mapped our way through the front doors of Georgian Dublin, or when we discovered the intrigue and fascination of Epic, the Irish Emigration Museum. It won’t be how we danced in Stephen’s Green, got dizzy looking up at the Spire, or when we were chased by an ambitious pigeon. It’s unlikely to be when we met the adopted orangutan of our little ones preschool in Dublin Zoo or bounced along the Ha’penny Bridge.

Our kids’ enthusiasm was embedded in a different type of culture and their excitement for our holiday centred around this one specific thing.

Comics.

We tied our impromptu getaway with the 20th anniversary of Free Comic Book Day, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic and rescheduled from its ordinary date in May to one in August for this year. After the crushing disappointment as it was cancelled, we validated a promise to our eldest (aged 7) that we would definitely (with a side order of intense hope on our part) get to Free Comic Book Day this year. Since she was four she has joined her dad in the queue, on what has usually been a cold and early start, to explore Dublin’s comic bookstores, nab a few free comics and catch some deals. Over the years she has built up quite a collection of continually reread, dog-eared, ketchup stained, and falling apart comics as she devours them frequently. Now that she has learned to properly read, comics have taken on a new dimension for her.

This year, almost as a rite of passage, her younger sister (aged 4) and myself (aged appropriately) joined them. We explored the offerings from a community which encourages, instils, and thrills in a love of comics and everything tied into what is known as geek culture. As an avid comic book fan and collector this is their dad’s favourite day of the year outside of Comic Con which has once again been postponed this year. We have over the years stood in queues to meet comic artists, to get books signed, to simply say “I met him”. We’ve bought prints from up-and-coming Irish artists, framed them, hung them on our walls, and added to our haphazard collection with first issues, limited editions, and a few collectibles. It’s safe to say, the four-year-old has innately built up a love of comics as she is surrounded by artwork, collections, and memorabilia in our home.

But this love of comics comes from the stories themselves and the worlds the writers and artists build for our kids. Not solely imbedded in superheroes, comic books expand more genres than you could imagine. Outside of the world of Marvel and DC our girls have found characters, quests, and worlds which have brought them on adventures with characters who are flawed, enigmatic, and driven. They have jumped into universes that expand their thoughts and brought those places and people into their games, their drawings, their imaginations, and their own stories.

That morning we went from one comic book store to another, supporting them by not only picking up a free comic book but by buying comics which the girls were drawn to and others my other half was just as exited about. They filled their bags and skipped happily along the quays thinking of the stories they were eager to fall into. That evening our conversation centred around origin stories – a character’s backstory which highlights reasons for their actions, intentions, and how they came to be who they are – and the abilities, vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of the good guys and bad guys. We chatted about our differences, the expansion of diversity, identities, being unique, creative, and true to yourself.

Even at age four and seven our kids explored themes, stories, beliefs, and ideas all because the comics they picked up opened these conversations once again in new and intriguing ways. And of course we threw around what the best superpowers are and whether we’d like super speed or laser eyes. Comics and geek culture are more than a way to indulge in escapism. It resonates with kids and adults alike, makes a difference to how we see the world and how we can teach our kids about inclusion, diversity, opportunity, and respect.

Building on our kids and our own love of geek culture, from comics and science fiction to video games and fantasy board games, our kids have been encouraged to follow their curiosity.

And while they have no draw towards Harry Potter but fell in love with Star-Lord and Groot, they remain decidedly on the fence when it comes to the Star Wars versus Star Trek debate no matter how hard I try to veer them towards the Enterprise.

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